March 01, 2010

My sister's adventures in Wadeye, Australia

All pictures taken by Victoria

This is a recent email from my sister about her first week working in a clinic that serves Australian Aborigines in the city of Wadeye, in the Northern Territory, and her unfortunate experience with being robbed. She seems in the good spirits though.

From Wikipedia:

Wadeye (pronounced wod-air-yer) was formerly known (and is still often referred to) as Port Keats. The town is remote, situated on the western edge of the Daly River Reserve more than 200 km south west of Darwin, with road access being cut off by flooding during the wet season. Year round access is via light aircraft or coastal barge only. At the 2001 census, Wadeye had a population of 2,322.


Wadeye is mainly inhabited by Indigenous Australians. It is the largest indigenous community in the Northern Territory. The inhabitants include seven language groups, the main language that is spoken being Murrinhpatha.

It reminds of my time in the field, and I thought I would share her adventures…


Hey guys,

Sorry about the scare last night.

So just so everyone knows what happened:

I was woken up by my bedroom door creaking.

By the time I realized I was awake, I jumped up and ran to the front door-- which was wide open.

Then I started noticing things were missing: the TV, my pens, sugar.

Then I called [007 in Africa], who told me (very sensibly) to call the police already.

I called the police, they came over, with my TV in tow (found on the side of the street as they were driving over!)

Today I called University of Darwin to tell them what had happened. I also went back home and jimmied the lock... the door opened easily. Also my set of keys didn't include a key for the padlock. I called the university back, who said they're already sent a man to fix all of these things.

I also filed a police report. Everyone at the clinic was really supportive, and tonight I am crashing at a young nurse's house, whom I met and got along with really well over the weekend. If or when I go back, another nurse told me that I could borrow her dog until I feel comfortable (yay).

Soooo that's where everything stands with THAT. About the community itself, I am going to be a little lazy and copy and paste from another email that I've just written:

"I've been lucky here so far. I went to check out the footy [soccer] yesterday and met the village elder, who's invited me to go fishing today (it's too rainy though-- got to watch out for crocs, so maybe next week). The nurses and doctor at the clinic are truly phenomenal. It's so inspiring to see what they do -- for so many people -- with so little. It's funny; people who come out this far are either really great, or seriously sketchy.

I had dinner with some local white people, only to realize quite early on that although the wife was lovely, the husband was 1) Christian fundamentalist, and 2) exceptionally racist. Some gems of that evening include:

"Yeah [my wife] has been trying to learn the local language. Me, I couldn't care less. I don't think they should be teaching it at school at all. I mean, who speak Murrinh-patha anyway? It's useless. They should just speak English, it's the dominant language anyway."

(I stayed mostly quiet because I'd just landed in town and I was at their house, although I did mention that he should be wary of saying such a thing to anyone Polish, for instance).

Here's another local [friend 1] who set up the footy games 3 years ago. It's amazing how the town's changed since then; Wadeye use to be dangerous. I mean, it's still not rainbows and butterflies, but at least on the weekends everyone rallies around their teams, gets exercise, and has something social to do. They still do riot over footy... but far less than they used to riot over, well, anything. There are also some gangs in Wadeye, and a lot of the things we see at the clinic are fights over girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, in young adults. We also see a lot of sick, sick babies. And, of course, everything else: fractures, diabetes, foot sores, heart attacks...

[Friend 1] loves it here. He's been adopted--literally. He has a skin name and a totem and an indigenous mother.

As for the Intervention [name of the project] so far? I've heard mostly good things. It was bad at the beginning-- undoubtedly, especially for everyone who remembers the stolen generation-- but from I've heard said, there's been a real effort to speak to local elders, see what they feel is needed, and work locally. It's also poured in a lot of money in general, which was seriously lacking before then (the [Government from the Northern Territory] is pretty shocking). However, it has added a lot of bureaucracy and heaps more agencies, which can be a hassle. I'm keeping my ears open to try to get a better picture of what's really happened with the Intervention.


[007 in Africa’s sister]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! And how can I join your sister's mailing list? :)